November 17th, 2018

To Your Health: Researchers finding ways to provide more effective health care

By Gillian Slade on June 4, 2018.

An ankle-sized MRI machine that can be used in space has a link to the Prairies and if you thought naloxone was only to reverse the effects of an overdose of illicit fentanyl, I have a surprise for you.

Gordon Sarty, researcher with the University of Saskatchewan, has been awarded a $100,000 contract by the Canadian Space Agency to develop an MRI device that is the size of your ankle and can be used on space missions. The MRI device will ultimately be able to monitor the bone and muscle health of astronauts who spend prolonged amounts of time in space where it is known that weightless conditions impact bone and muscle mass.

This MRI device is expected to weigh about 30 kilograms as opposed to a full-size MRI machine that weighs about 15 tonnes.

Sarty and the University of Saskatchewan already have other uses in mind for this MRI device. It may be ideal for remote northern regions of Saskatchewan.

They previously designed and built smaller wrist-sized experimental MRIs. The ankle MRI will be tested in about a year using a steeply climbing and diving jet to create zero-gravity conditions, according to a press release.

Naloxone has saved countless lives when it has been given to those who have overdosed on illicit fentanyl. In future it could save the lives of those who have a stroke due to a blood clot on the brain.

Researchers in Helsinki issued a press release saying twice daily doses of naloxone given to rats stopped brain damage by reducing inflammation and increasing the size of the blood vessels to improve the flow of oxygen and blood to an affected area.

For people who have strokes due to a blood clot the long-term effects can mean partial paralysis and speech issues among others.

The other type of stroke is where a blood vessel actually bursts in the brain and naloxone is not suitable for that.

These Helsinki researchers expect to do trials on human in the next few years so we will have to wait a while.

Currently treatment for an ischaemic stroke, where there is a blood clot blocking a blood vessel, depends on a clot-busting medicine and administering it in the early stages.

The Helsinki researchers, in a press release, say the naloxone could be given up to 24 hours after the symptoms of a stroke and still be effective.

Please bear in mind — human trials are not even scheduled yet.

Here’s to researchers exploring ways to provide more effective health care treatment and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at or 403-528-8635.

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